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Taxidermy combines man's love of art and outdoors

March 24, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

In taxidermy, Dane Gaulding found a job that encompasses his love of art, sportsmanship and the outdoors.

"I always wanted to do something with art and hunting and fishing and the outdoors," said Gaulding, 41, of Knoxville. "I thought about taxidermy for a long time."

Gaulding and his wife, Katie, opened Mountin' Man Taxidermy in December. From a workshop in their mountaintop southern Washington County home, Gaulding mounts trophy fish, birds, deer and other mammals for customers from Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia, he said.

His wife handles the business's Web site atwww.mountinman.com.

The oft-bleached taxidermy shop resembles a cross between an art studio, trophy room and morgue. Fish and deer heads in various stages of completion hang from walls and racks. Chest freezers hold bagged pelts. Under a large sink, a variety of cleaning supplies are kept on hand to ward off bacteria, said Gaulding, who spends about 40 percent of his time cleaning up after his work.

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His shop contains the Styrofoam forms that give shape to clients' trophies, carving tools to whittle the forms, defleshing machines to remove meat from hides, a deep fryer to boil flesh from small animals, band saw to trim antlers, hair dryer to groom cleaned bird feathers, skife to thin skins, heavy-duty thread to sew up bullet holes and other pelt damage, and a variety of reference books.

Shelves hold glass eyes, plastic deer ears, wire, hairbrushes, stick pins, thimbles, staplers, tape measures and coils of foam.

An air compressor and dozens of paints and brushes flank an airbrush room in which Gaulding adds the artistic finishing touches to his mounts. He uses autobody filler to bond antlers to forms, and degreaser to clean oily scales and pelts, he said.

The more than 12-step taxidermy process takes at least two weeks and two days to complete, including about 16 hours of hands-on work and two weeks drying time, said Gaulding, who attended the American Institute of Taxidermy in Wisconsin to hone his trade.

"Taxidermy is an art," he said. "You've really got to know what you're doing."

Gaulding holds a Maryland Taxidermist & Fur Tanner's License, Maryland Fur Trader's License and Federal License for Migratory Birds and Waterfowl. He is a member of state and national taxidermists' associations, he said.

A former printer, Gaulding used money he saved from selling his Dane's Sawtooth Bears chainsaw carvings to fund his taxidermy training. Though he'd mounted trophies for himself and friends and family members, Gaulding felt it was important to get the expert schooling needed to do competition-quality mounts for his customers, he said.

He said his fast turnaround time and attention to realistic detail - including hand-pebbling and adding veined septums to deer noses - already has attracted clients concerned with quality.

His motto is, "Taxidermy doesn't have to be expensive to be extremely well done."

Gaulding credits the quick success of his shop, in part, to the support of area businesses - including Keystone Sporting Goods, Pry's Custom Butchering, Woodlawn Farm Slaughterhouse, Battleview Market, Hilltop Station, Himes' Store, Holsinger's Meat Market and K&M Grocery - which, he said, have referred customers to him.

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